Putting the bubbles into wine can be done
in several ways but only sparkling wines made in a certain region of
northern France can be called Champagne.
The best way to produce sparkling wine is
the 'Methode Traditionelle', practiced in Champagne and elsewhere. Base
wines high in acidity and fermented to dryness are bottled and a small
amount of sugar and yeast is then introduced to create a second
fermentation. It is the second fermentation which creates carbon dioxide
and thus the bubbles which give the wine its sparkle. As the carbon
dioxide is unable to escape into the air it dissolves into the wine.
The sediment, or less, left behind by the
spent yeast stays in contact with the wine until dégorgement, and
imparts biscuity flavors and complexity.
'Dégorgement' is the removal of the lees,
in order to render the wine clear and bright. A process known as 'rémuge',
which involves the twisting and turning of the bottles, slowly shifts
the lees to the neck of the bottle. The necks of the bottles are then
passed through a solution of freezing brine in order to freeze the first
inch or so of wine now containing the lees. when the cap is removed, the
pressure in the bottle forces out the ice pellet.
To finish, the wine lost during 'dégorgement'
is replaced by a mixture of wine and cane sugar, called the 'dosage' or
'Liqueur d'Expedition'. The amount of sugar added has a bearing on the
small amount of sugar is added for the dryish style of Brut while more
is added for the quite sweet and sticky rich.
A cheaper form of secondary fermentation
can take place in closed tanks. Known as 'Cuve close', the wine is
bottled under pressure so that it retains carbon dioxide. This method is
generally reserved for less expensive fizz.
Particular grape varieties are sought the
world over. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir both have the attributes required
to make great champagnes and sparkling wines. Although the best
champagne may be a first choice for many as a 'desert island' bottle,
there are plenty of fine sparkling wines around.
Areas of England with chalky soil,
combined with the country's cool climate, make it capable of producing
top-quality sparkling wine. Fruity and expressive sparklers come from
riper fruit in countries such as Australia, USA, New Zealand and South
Africa, while the favored choice from Spain is Cava, a lighter sparkling
wine made from indigenous grape varieties.